Chicago Cubs’ Jon Lester proving he’s worth the money


Last season for the Chicago Cubs’ Jon Lester wasn’t always easy as many fans were upset with his performance after being awarded a megadeal to come to Chicago. Things are a little bit different this year.

He’s the six-year, $155 million man for the Chicago Cubs and he’s not even the “ace” anymore. Most pitchers don’t ask for that label, and Jon Lester wouldn’t be the first to. But with that amount of money that is exactly what you’ll become. An 11-12 record with a 3.34 ERA isn’t terrible but it wasn’t what was expected of him. He couldn’t hit. He couldn’t throw to bases. He couldn’t stop the running game. All of these things were going to “catch up” with Lester.

Joe Maddon said he was a better hitter than his average showed. He proved Maddon right in the spring by hitting a home run and is already a 1/4 of the way to his hit total from last season. Throwing to the bases is still an adventure, as most of the time, he opts for the short jog and underhanded throw to Anthony Rizzo–when the ball isn’t stuck in the webbing.

The knock was that he and David Ross were “automatic outs” at the bottom of the order. Well, Ross has found new life and Lester has at least done enough to make pitchers attack him more carefully, i.e. more pitches he’s seen.

And as far as baserunners taking advantage of Lester? That hasn’t really happened either. In six starts, Lester has allowed three stolen bases. They’ve also caught three guys stealing. Math major not needed here–that’s a 50% caught stealing. A very small sample but clearly the issue is not plaguing Lester or the Cubs.

Lester focuses on the man at the plate. Runners on? Doesn’t care. I’m starting to think he gets even better when he loads the bases. In each of his last two starts, he’s loaded them with nobody out and then proceeded to escape unscathed. Of course, we don’t want to see him keep that up, but his 1.58 ERA is more than strong enough to win 15+ games for the Cubs. Call wins a team stat if you choose, but Lester is part of that team.

  1. His issue with baserunners would be more of a concern on a team that only scratched across one to two runs a game, where an error, bad bounce or home run could make the difference. But this offense is slightly more impressive than that. Lester doesn’t need to be perfect but he’s been pretty close each time out. Three runs allowed in his second start against the Reds was his worst outing. He took the loss in a 2-0 decision against the Colorado Rockies after pitching 7 1/3 innings of one-run baseball.

This is another instance that I’ll refer to the “trust in the plan” motto that has been thrown around since the new front office took the helm. What Lester is doing this year is exactly what Theo Epstein envisioned. Blue collar pitcher who puts in his work without saying much. Yes, he’ll airmail a throw to a base eventually. And he’s not going to win the Silver Slugger award. But everything else that he’s doing? I’ll gladly take that for the $155 million.